On Saturday night I got the phone call. “We were eating at Scalini’s and my water broke!” Christine said in the voicemail. “So if you’re available and you want to head up to Kennestone, we’ll be here all night!” I’d already told our friends Christine and Roger that I wanted to be on call, ready to document the birth of their first baby, whenever he or she might decide to join the land of the breathing.
When the call came, I was on my way to a play at the Ferst Center. I knew it would likely take several more hours before the baby would be born, so I sat anxiously through the play, came home to throw on some jeans, then arrived at Kennestone Hospital’s birthing center around 11:30 Saturday night.
Christine and Roger have been waiting on this baby for a long time. They’ve WORKED for this baby. They’ve suffered for this baby. (Especially Christine, who hasn’t had a single vomit-free day since getting pregnant.) But the struggles never lessened their excitement, and they were as prepared as any expectant parents could ever be. They even had a typed birthing plan prepared for the hospital staff.
When I walked into Christine’s room, she was completely relaxed, breathing calmly through her contractions, smiling in between each one. Roger kept a cool cloth on her forehead. “No way you aren’t on drugs!” I teased. She was incredibly calm, but also 100% drug-free. A natural childbirth was her #1 priority, and so far she was doing great.
Christine’s mom and her husband Roger were the only two people allowed in the birthing room. Oh yeah; and me. WOW. I’m not sure how to even describe the honor of sharing such an experience with someone. It was even more powerful because Christine and Roger are such dear friends of ours. We’ve seen them fight for this child for months, and I knew I was about to see the final battle.
Roger was amazing. I’ve never given birth, but I can’t imagine a more supportive, stabilizing presence than Roger. He talked softly to Christine as her pain increased, and never seemed to tire of holding her hand or rubbing her back.
Every hour, for fifteen minutes, a nurse would enter and hook the baby monitor up to Christine’s belly. Watching the contractions grow and the baby’s heartbeat get stronger was as enthralling as any movie. Crazy? Maybe. But totally true.
Around 4am, a small dose of pain medication and some anti-nausea meds finally allowed Christine to relax between the contractions that had become nearly unbearable. Okay, so relax isn’t quite the right word. She would fall into complete, absolute, snoring sleep for just minutes at a time. Roger was right there with her.
I’ve never been present for a natural childbirth before, so I had no idea what to expect. I remember my mom telling me once that all the classes and breathing exercises and mental relaxation tricks in the world could never prepare a woman for what would surely be the worst pain in her life. Watching Christine, I believed it. She had labored for 12 hours, the pain finally escalating to the point that she couldn’t help but yell out with each contraction. She paced the room; she sat on the birthing ball; she relaxed in the shower; she focused her energy. But the pain was clearly excruciating. “I can’t do this anymore,” she said. But she did. And finally, just after 7am, it was time to push.
I’m not going to share the photos of the actual birth, but this was taken just seconds after the Nurse-Midwife pulled the tiny, white and purple baby into the world, rubbing him pink and releasing him into Christine’s arms. “It’s a Jax!” Roger said. “Baby” was officially a boy. Christine let out a tiny choking sound, a cry, a gasp… and her shaky hands lifted her son to her chest. “I just love you so much,” she said. “I just love you SO much.” And she was crying. And Roger was crying. And I was crying. And Jax was making little kitten noises through his tiny, perfect baby mouth. And as surely as Christine was holding Jax, Jax held Christine.
Christine’s mom could only sit and stare and cry, joy streaming from her eyes. It felt as though the entire room had finally exhaled. I thought my lens was fogging up, and only when I pulled my camera away did I realize that it was actually my eyes that were wet. I felt weightless.
Just like that, they were parents.
Jax opened his beautiful blue-brown eyes and looked straight into his mother’s face.
Jax got a pretty good cry going as he was weighed and measured and footprinted. He had arrived 3 weeks early, but he was chubby and noisy and squirmy. He was perfect.
With Roger rocking Jax, Christine could finally close her eyes in her first nausea-free, pain-free, worry-free moment in nearly 10 months. Christine had endured her long, difficult pregnancy with joy and grace. She had looked beautiful from the moment she knew she was expecting, through her long painful labor. But at this moment she was absolutely radiant. I know, I know, that’s what everyone says about new mothers. And it’s true.
Roger Tweeted Jax’s birth while the new little man got his first meal.
Christine’s sister Becky came in to meet her nephew for the first time.
Christine’s brother John was nervous to hold Jax. “I don’t know how,” he said. But Jax seemed right at home in his uncle’s arms. John’s eyes filled and he laughed as he cradled his first nephew.
Christine’s dad was stuck in Missouri, so Jax made his very first phone call to his grandpa.
Christine’s brother Jim and his wife Cherelle stood guard over Jax as he warmed up under the heat lamp in preparation for a bath.
The long night is over… and a brand new journey has begun.
Being present for Jax’s birth was… miraculous. I am so blessed to have two such strong, wonderful friends, and I can’t wait to know their new little son and watch him grow up. If he’s anything like his parents, he’ll be one lucky boy.
I love you guys!